“Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary.” When General Alfred M. Gray Jr. first spoke these words many years ago, he probably didn’t anticipate just how ubiquitous they would become for the Marines who were to follow. Prior to becoming the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1987, Gray used the experience and lessons learned from his time in Korea and Vietnam to oversee significant updates to USMC training, including the emphasis on marksmanship from whence his famous quote came. Although some infantry Marines scoff at the idea that their non-combat counterparts could be their equals when it comes to the art and science of the gun, in general, the “every Marine a rifleman” idea has taken root over the last half-century or so.
However, as much as some aspects of war never change, tactics and technology do. Because of this, it is incumbent upon warriors to likewise update and improve their training. The Marines are currently in the process of doing this with the replacement of their 113-year-old Annual Rifle Training (ART) program. The development of a new Annual Rifle Qualification (ARQ) program began in 2018 and is expected to go into full effect next year. The new ARQ draws heavily on lessons Marines have fought, killed, bled, and died for over the course of the GWOT, or Global War on Terror. These lessons have led the new ARQ to become more focused on “combat-style and combat-situation shooting,” according to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Brown, Weapons Training Battalion gunner at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Some examples of this shift include the elimination of the sitting position and the allowance of supports like barricades or bipods. Additionally, the target will no longer be pulled and marked after each individual shot. The new ARQ will include timed segments, some of which will be multi-shot. One of the segments at 500 yards, the furthest range used, will be 45 seconds for five shots. Another adjustment is that Marines will shoot the entire new course in full kit, or “full battle rattle“, wearing all combat gear including their helmet and body armor. CWO4 Brown further indicates that the new ARQ should be more challenging than the old ART, and will likely result in a decrease in Expert-graded qualifications, saying, “I think they have made the range harder. We have seen the effect that the environment, with the heat and the length of time they are exposed in the elements, has had on the Marines.” If you have shot the ART and/or ARQ, please let us know your thoughts in the comments. See you at the range!